Freely adapted from The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay’s 18th century masterpiece, The Busker’s Opera (the street musician’s opera) is a new musical work for the theatre. The show, directed by Robert Lepage, is performed by a group of musicians, singers and a DJ. Together, they have composed more than 30 new songs as well as reinvented Gay’s classic story for today’s audience. Fans of the original will recognize the characters of Macheath and his jealous lovers, Polly and Lucy; the prostitute, Jenny; as well as the ruthless Mr. and Mrs. Peachum and the corrupt Mr. Lockit. In The Busker’s Opera, however, the characters do not belong to the criminal underworld, but rather to the underworld of the music industry.
Like its source, The Busker’s Opera begins in London, but the show quickly changes gears and embarks on a Trans-Atlantic journey, first landing in New York and then traveling south through Atlantic City and New Orleans before arriving at its final destination, Huntsville, Texas, principal capital punishment centers in the U.S. Somewhere between road trip and rock show, classical concert and the zydeco of the bayou, between the street musician and the sharks who seek to hold the keys to power, fame and fortune, the show concerns itself with the artistic freedom that remains after the steamroller of the music industry has driven by. Irreverent and eclectic.
The play was first performed in February 2004 at the Spectrum de Montréal as part of the Montreal High Lights Festival.